Cary's Cancer Fund:Flight to fight
$132,543 of $300,000 goal
My husband and I have started a complicated journey that will require your help if you wish to contribute to the fight for my husband's life. Here is Cary Baumgartner's story:
Cary was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma on June 22, 2016, an aggressive cancer that has now spread in both lungs and his liver. He is a Captain with Dragonair in Hong Kong, and is only 53 years old. Cary has flown as a pilot for many, many years around the world and loves his career and the mates he has made over the years. Due to his cancer diagnosis, his medical certificate enabling him to fly has now been taken away until he is deemed fit to fly and free of cancer. Cary started a fairly new treatment of immunotherapy here in Hong Kong on July 13th, 2016, and we are hoping that he will respond well over the course of his treatment which will take place twice a month for many months, possibly years. Without treatment he will have months to live.
It's my wish that we weren't in this situation, period. I have had many people ask how they can help us through this difficult time in our lives and although I would prefer to not ask for help, we must so that my husband has every chance available to him to beat this cancer.
We have come to a conclusion that immunotherapy is currently our only option that will benefit Cary at this time. The cost is extremely expensive and our insurance ceiling will quickly be reached in the coming months. We are requesting financial help now so that Cary can continue his potentially life saving treatments after his medical insurance and salary runs out.
Prayers and positive thoughts only can go so far. Unfortunately the medical treatment Cary needs is far out of our financial control and so much bigger than us, roughly to the tune of $4 million Hong Kong dollars, or $500,000 USD. And this is just the beginning.
If you would like to be a part of our journey we have set up this gofundme account. We will keep you posted on Cary's progress and treatment as we tackle each day, each week with grace and gratitude. Please keep saying prayers and keep us in your thoughts.
We thank you for your kindness and support.
With all my heart, Kate
Today Cary received his 37th immunotherapy treatment. The updates have been less frequent and I apologize, but as many of you know I’ve had a lot on my plate. I now tend to only make time to share when there is truly something new to say or celebrate.
Nineteen months ago we started on this journey of immunotherapy treatments in Hong Kong, to give Cary a better chance at life, a prolonged chance of survival we were told if he was a complete responder. Alternatively we were told he would only have 6-9 months to live if we chose to do nothing. Here we are today in Dallas, Texas. Our life together continues with visits to the cancer facility every three weeks, scans for his whole body as well as a brain mri every three months, and followup visits to specialists for symptoms that have arisen from various side effects.
Many people don’t survive this awful type of cancer. Their bodies can’t tolerate the immense side effects from the drugs or sadly the cancer just doesn’t respond to the new drugs, in this case immunotherapy. Cary continues the fight, his fight. Last Monday he was scheduled for his CT scan, a scan that must be done every three months to keep watch on this nasty cancer they call Malignant melanoma. A cancer that cannot be cured. It’s sneaky, always lurking and waiting for the opportunity to strike out in one’s body and wreak havoc.
Cary’s oncologist, and also a melanoma specialist, said this morning that the results were in and the recent scans were completely clear. You could visibly see the relief and a sense of calm come over Cary. Three more months of being clear, no evidence of the disease. We experience this anxiety every three months. Not knowing if this is the day the cancer returns. People tell us to celebrate and we do, but not in a way that celebrations are defined. We are just thankful to be given this life and this extra time.
Cary continues to have side effects that he has learned to deal with, many of which can be mitigated with daily medicine, others like the severe pain are minimized but not removed with over the counter pharmaceuticals. He doesn’t want a stronger pain killer that would wipe him out so he sticks with over the counter and has continued pain. He remains strong. He has told me that his good days now are what his bad days used to be before cancer. This breaks my heart. He is not the same. Cancer has changed him. Cancer has changed us. I’m sure many of you agree that have also been affected by cancer that it changes you. All people fighting cancer, as well as those around them are changed physically and/or psychologically. The cancer doesn’t decide how we will be affected. We do. We make the decisions that will change the course of our life.
We had a lovely conversation today with the oncologist about where Cary is headed if he continues to respond to the cancer treatment and show no evidence of disease. His doctor mentioned that there is no evidence that suggests that stopping the treatment would result in cancer progression in complete responders like Cary. On the other hand staying on the treatment for a prolonged amount of time may result in adverse side effects becoming severe. The drugs are relatively new in the medical field and there is still no long term data, as well as very few long term survivors. We are hoping that Cary could possibly stop treatments if he continues to show no evidence of disease possibly as early as July of 2018. This would be the two year mark since being diagnosed with stage iv cancer. Stopping the treatment may help him to have a lessened amount of pain on a day to day basis. Again, it’s one day at a time.
Cary is thriving at work and loves his job. His clients admire his years of aviation experience and are truly appreciative. I think it is incredibly amazing how far he has come and the amount he has accomplished in the last twenty months since being diagnosed with stage iv terminal cancer. Life can go on if you continue to fight each and every day, and he is showing us how gracefully.
Thank you again for all of your letters, phone calls, love and support. Thank you for riding this rollercoaster ride of life with us.
Love Kate & Cary
The last couple of weeks have been very draining and wrought with pain for Cary. He’s had severe fatigue and pain in his knees and ankles that would probably measure 8 out of 10 on a pain scale with 10 being the worst. There isn’t anything different causing the pain, it just is a constant. Every patient has different symptoms. Some more severe than others. His appearance is still fantastic and if you didn’t know what we know, you’d never know he has stage iv cancer. Throughout this time he has worked a full schedule and continued to show grace and a motivating attitude that is truly remarkable. He can’t give up and won’t give up. The options are only to persevere and push forward to live life.
Since I haven’t updated you all for quite awhile I’ll do so now. In the last five months Cary has had numerous treatments every other week and has had two sets of scans to determine whether or not the cancer has returned. It has not. Cary remains NED, no evidence of disease in his body. Next scans will be in late November probably after the thanksgiving holiday where they will do another Brain MRI and complete PETSCAN.
We moved from Hong Kong to Dallas, Texas. Cary commenced working for a company as a Simulator training instructor and is working full time. We organized the global move and to this day are still awaiting our container from Hong Kong. We also purchased a car for Cary to get to and from work. I have closed my business in Hong Kong and have discontinued my photography business. Life has been full and busy these past few months and to say it’s been a smooth transition is to lie, but we remain positive.
Some of you have asked how the treatment compares here in the US to what Cary received in Hong Kong. To be completely honest Cary’s treatment in Hong Kong was amazing. The standard of care was fantastic. Here in the US, Cary is being managed by a specialized Melanoma Oncologist whom he sees every two weeks before treatment. He is very pleasant and really listens to the needs of his patient and tries to resolve any pain issues or other side effects. Having a dedicated person who specializes in the type of cancer that Cary has just means that they are more likely to be aware of changes in treatment protocols, side effects etc.
I continue to support Cary by driving him to weekly appointments, and assisting in most tasks just to take some of the burden off of him.
We miss our beautiful life in Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon Airlines, as well as our friends near and far. Wishing you all healthy, happy lives. We couldn’t have made it this far without your outstretched arms and love. Thank you.
Love Kate and Cary
Over the last year Cary has had minimal side effects except for a recent heart issue this past week and a few long days stay in the hospital that was potentially attributed to the immunotherapy treatments. Through it all Cary has kept an amazing attitude when the wind in our sails has been taken out repeatedly. Many of you have commented on Cary's overall appearance saying that he looks fantastic. And I cannot agree more. He is doing his best to live and cherish this life we have been given.
When it rains it pours!!! We have been through so much over the last year. The stress and emotional roller coaster has been unbelievable and I wish it on no one. Cary and I love Hong Kong and all of the friends we have had the privilege to meet over the many years here as expats, as well as when we lived in Sri Lanka. Cary has tried repeatedly to secure employment here, once he was considered clear of cancer, but it was not in the cards. The employers could not see further down the road for a future here like we had wanted. And so it began.
Cary recently began looking in the US for a job after being disappointed here. We are thrilled that Cary has been given an opportunity to start a new career and we look forward to a bright future. Unfortunately he must leave quickly to begin his new job. So off we go. On Monday we will fly to the US for our new start and new chapter, and I will help him get settled into a new life. Many things to do and prepare in the coming weeks. All a bit too much really in the short term but finally we have something positive to look forward to. I will also shutter my business here in Hong Kong after nine years and will miss my many fantastic clients. It really breaks my heart because my work was a labour of love and dedication that i built. New things on the horizon and hopefully I can recreate myself with a new career just as Cary has had to do. We will miss you all and you will forever have a special place in our hearts.
Finding a new Oncologist and Cardiologist are going to be first on the list so that Cary can continue his treatment and remain healthy. The treatments must continue because as we have mentioned before there is no long term data on what will work for each individual, nor how long to continue treatments once a person is showing no signs of any cancer as Cary has shown for the last eight months now. According to the calendar, we are hoping Cary will have another treatment mid August and then towards the end of August he will have another scan to determine if he remains clear of cancer. All of this is up in the air until we find the right oncologist and proceed with a new treatment plan.
Big hugs to y'all that have helped us through the last thirteen months of our lives. When one or two doors close, another opens. Thank you for opening your hearts to us. Our doors will always be open to you. Without a doubt we couldn't have made it this far without your support. You've made it easier for us to get through this challenging time in our lives and have helped Cary immensely with his treatment costs. Texas here we come.
Love Kate & Cary
Now according to the records Cary has been NED, no evidence of disease, for five continuous months. According to the scans there is no evidence or activity in his cells, or organs, of cancer.
Cary retired from Dragonair after 11 years of service, a forced retirement from a company that he loved and a career that he adored. His 35 amazing years as a commercial pilot flying around the world was remarkable and amazing. Now we wait for the next chapter to unfold, an unknown chapter at this point. We headed home and tried to digest our day, the retirement and the news that all cancer patients should be afforded. It's one we might not forget for a long time.
The next treatment was today, May 23, 2017.
This time last year we were packing our bags for our annual repatriation, Cary worked what would have been his second to last day of work (little did we know at the time). Eleven months and 22 immunotherapy treatments, where has it gone? As we sit here in the hospital awaiting the arrival of Cary's Oncologist, we know that the more we know, the less we know. How in the world are we going to be able to afford this treatment because right now we are hemorrhaging cash? Cary's quote for the day, "That which doesn't kill you, makes you poorer." He always cracks me up. It is a little bit of light humor to get us through another day.
Cary has had less overall severe pain as of late than he has had in the past. Overall the Oncologist is genuinely concerned about how we will pay now that Cary no longer has insurance, or an employer, and the fact that he now has a pre-existing condition dictates that he won't be insured anywhere. This is a problem for most of her patients receiving immunotherapy treatments.
We are hoping we will be in her office sometime in June for Cary's 23rd treatment as opposed to the hospital. We have come to an arrangement where she will give us about a 10% discount from what we are paying out of pocket here in hospital if we go to her office for treatment. The final bill amount remains to be a mystery until we actually follow through with it and see what we will be charged. The benefits are that we will be able to get the treatment done in an hour instead of the better part of a whole day in the hospital and, of course, the potential discounted amount.
The reality is that over the last eleven months we have been relatively sheltered from the myriads of other patients in Hong Kong receiving various cancer treatments - Patients dealing with emotion, physical changes, and mental changes. We just don't see the patients afflicted with cancer like you would if you were visiting an oncology department for treatments. Yes, occasionally we see cancer patients and their caregivers in the Oncologist office, or in the Radiology department being prepared for their scans but overall we have not been exposed to that side of cancer. The various drab rooms filled with patients receiving chemo, radiation or infusions, those patients whose appearances have changed, or are looking different has not been part of our protocol. Cary has been receiving treatments in an outpatient ward every two weeks and has been somewhat sheltered from this side of the awful disease.
I feel like if we had, or will at some point, we would offer words of encouragement and support. It is so important to do this because you just have no idea what people are going through or how they are feeling unless you reach out. People you see everyday, walking, or on the train, behind the counter as a customer service agent, you just don’t know what each person is dealing with. It could be that they are having a difficult relationship, dealing with a sick relative or they themselves have been diagnosed with the dreadful, life-changing disease of cancer. We all need support. We should all live one day at a time and appreciate those around us. We do, and we can thank this disease, melanoma, for bringing us back to reality to see that life today is more important than what might, or should, or could happen in the future.
Cary and I discussed approaching the Cancer Fund organization here in Hong Kong to see if I could photograph families who are going through similar situations and possibly doing this once a month. Photos are so important to me and I hope you cherish the ones we share with you. It would be a way of giving back to a community that has embraced us for the last eleven years here in Hong Kong. Thank you for your continued ability to surround us with love, support and the occasional much-needed hug when we need it.
Tomorrow is cause for celebration. Cary's 54th birthday. A celebration, another day that we thought might not happen just eleven months ago.
Love you all,
Kate & Cary
Keep up the fight, perseverance is sure to lead to good results. Lots of love, Alex
Happy belated birthday to Capatin Cary! A bit sad to know that Kate and you will leaving soon to US.. Anyway is good to hear that your sickness getting better and better. Keep fighting and be stong! We will miss you!
Happy belated Cary! Sorry to hear about the forced retirement, it's truly corporate style...... But I'm glad to hear the good news of your report & see your smiling face out in the nature. Keep fighting and hope to you again somewhere, sometime...... God bless you and your family
Happy Birthday Cary! What a wonderful gift to receive a report like this. Thank-you Kate for sharing this report of Cary's healing. You have just dealt with a huge challenge so in regards to the money, I say again “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 - the money will come. For now, rejoice in the good news and keep faith. I love your idea of supporting families dealing with cancer challenges. Please keep us updated on your mission and your own individual progress. You are right, we don't know what people are dealing with...we're all very well trained at hiding things. The truth is everyone has problems. Jesus even said it “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33. He did not say you might have problems! Most people are spiritually thirsty and don't even know it...That is why Jesus said "I thirst" just before He said "It is finished" and died. To show he was also man and to fulfil the final prophecy of the old testament. Your mission will provide 'water' to the suffering. God Bless you both.
Praise the Lord Our church has been praying unceasingly for you both as we are for another CathayDragon pilot just beginning his own journey through the cancer maze now. We have also been praying for a Hong Kong FedEx pilot and his family and just received a good report that results show no more sign of his lymphoma. Praise the Lord My wife was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in one of her kidneys just over 2 years ago. She underwent a successful operation and has had to go through the MRI/X-ray/Ultrasound every 3 months since and all good reports. Thank-you Jesus I, too, had a few years follow up after my own Melanoma. We learn to appreciate life after these types of experiences. But, more than that, there is a purpose to life and I believe these challenges are designed to wake us up and focus on that purpose, not our Purpose but His Purpose. I invite you to read the most sold hardback book in His-story - Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren - and hope you find the transformation I did to see life through eternal eyes and not temporal ones and so receive God's promise of peace beyond human understanding. God's peace which is whole and complete, not the same as the peace offered by the world. The Courage to Keep Going, Part 1, Uncommon Courage https://itunes.apple.com/hk/podcast/pastor-ricks-daily-hope/id631094342?mt=2&i=1000383778254 May God continue to wrap his covering of protection over Cary. Thank-you Jesus for your provision, promises and protection over Cary. Amen
Dearest Cary and Kate, I am saddened to hear that Cary was forced to retire from doing something he loved so much but am thrilled to hear that the he has been responding so well to the treatments. You are both amazing people. Stay strong and continue to lean on each other and with the grace of God, you will get through this. Much love to you both. ❤️
Hi Captain Cary and Kate, God will always with you and your family. Keep fighting and I do believe that you will recover soon.. Cheers, Fanny
Hi Cary & Kate How are you both going? We're looking for a good report in Cary's healing. We're all still praying for you unceasingly. God Bless you both
Looking good ! Best wishes, Patrick
New Year, New Hope. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV http://bible.com/111/php.4.6.niv You are in our prayers Cary & Kate Keep Going!
You are looking great Cary, well done both of your for your inspiring resilience.
Well that is just the kind of Christmas cheer I was looking for. Great news Kate. Keep going Cary.
Well done both of you...what great news! No better Xmas gift.
So glad you two have each other for this fight.
He's undoubtedly the most attractive chemo patient I've ever seen! Woohoo you two. Love you Kate.
Beautifully said, dear Kate.
Oh my god Kate, how I understand you and I am here for you. As you are for me. Thank you. My caregiving with Bruce was tough but it brought us to such an amazing closeness that I didn't think was possible. In sickness and in health....love you both, jan
Prayers for you my friends.....The power of prayer...Love you so much..
Kate & Cary, Always in my thoughts and prayers. May soon you receive NED notification. Much luv to both of you.
Very happy for the positive news. My prayers for many, many more anniversaries!